What to look out for
data, modifying, copying or disrupting data. Unlike viruses and worms, a trojan isn’t able to self-replicate. A computer virus or worm on the other hand, can self-replicate on computers and through computer networks. These viruses can spread very rapidly, and there are many types that can cause a lot of damage. The research team at Kaspersky processes 325 000 new malicious files every day, up 10 000 a day compared to last year, and 125 000 a day more than in 2012. A security solution to stop both known and unknown viruses is essential, says Saad. “A sure way of knowing that your computer or server has a virus is if it starts doing things it doesn’t normally do,” says Ollewagen. “The computer may be slow or not working at all, it may also be getting error messages that you haven’t seen before.” The system slows dramatically because the malware runs processes in the background. Ollewagen explains that what the virus does, is firstly attempt to disable any anti-virus software on the computer and then spread to any accessible program on your machine incognito. When you eventually find the original infected file it has made copies of itself. “In general a lot of malware hides itself, so it’s better to have a security solution running or checking your system for viruses,” says Saad. The perception that Mac is immune to malware is bogus, Ollewagen warns. No computer system is completely immune. A Mac is safer than a Windows operating system, but it’s still susceptible. Ollewagen says the newest operating systems from Mac will, however, pick up on most trojans out there. Saad says the Windows operating system, like Android for smartphones, is widespread and is, therefore, an easy target, whereas it used to be more of an effort to write malware for Mac. “In 2012 the first known malware, Flashflake, for Mac was discovered. It used Java exploits that did not require user interaction to infect computers,” says Saad. The argument for Mac is also moot when you consider that Internet threats such as phishing show no predilection for an operating system on your computer. As more people are turning to Macs, cybercriminals are becoming increasingly interested in this operating system, says Saad. Saad says Macs also need access to web resources, mail, flash drives and so forth, thus many approaches to preventing malware infection on Windows systems can be adopted and implemented in Mac environments as it serves a similar purpose in this regard.
Here are the dos and don’ts as listed by the pros: Avoid any website that prompts you to install an unknown codec, plugin or certificate that will enable you to use that site, says Ollewagen. “Beware of misleading nefarious pop-ups that inform you of a virus or that there’s something wrong with your computer as these are designed to mimic the look of legitimate AntiVius software but will actually install adware,” says Ollewagen. Don’t download cracked copies of commercial software from Torrent sites, says Ollewagen, as these often contain viruses. “Only download essentials with a corporate brand such as Flash Player from the actual developer’s site and not from intermediary sites.” Saad warns users to never open attachments in e-mails that claim you have won money or stating it contains something of interest, especially when the e-mail is from an unknown sender. “In fact, never open links in e-mails from unknown senders as it could be a phishing attack,” he says. “Additionally, a phishing attack often occurs when a user opens a link. Make sure that the text of the link you clicked on stays on the actual website and that the text in your URL box in your browser doesn’t change to something random. This is commonly known as a phishing attack and it is very effective as it uses social engineering tactics to lure users to a honeypot,” says Saad. “Avoid downloading from peer to peer websites unless you know what you are doing. Avoid accessing random flash drives handed to you,” says Saad. “When you are visiting sites for payments or entering your credentials, make sure the website starts with ‘ https’ and a lock sign is visible in your browser. Also be careful when you access websites with your credentials; avoid connecting to unknownor open WiFi hotspots without the protection from a security solution,” he says.